Alberta Human Rights Information Service January 18, 2017

In this issue:
Human rights case law: Court and tribunal decisions
Commission news
Other human rights and diversity news
Publications and resources


Celebrating 45 Years
2017 is a special year. This year, in addition to recognizing the 150th anniversary of Confederation and 35 years of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, here in Alberta we are also marking the 45th anniversary of the Alberta Human Rights Commission.

Forty-five years ago, in 1972, Peter Lougheed introduced the Individual’s Rights Protection Act and the Alberta Bill of Rights, which formed the basis of Alberta’s human rights legislative framework today, the Alberta Human Rights Act. This legislation was responsible for establishing the Commission, whose function is to administer the Act and uphold the principle that all persons are equal in dignity, rights and responsibilities.

You can read the message from the Chief of the Commission and Tribunals.

HUMAN RIGHTS CASE LAW: COURT AND TRIBUNAL DECISIONS

1. Important court decision related to human rights:
Trinity Western University v. Law Society of British Columbia, 2016 BCCA 423 (Court of Appeal for British Columbia, November 1, 2016)
British Columbia Court of Appeal upholds lower Court decision in Trinity Western University case

As a private religious educational institution, Trinity Western University (TWU) required its students to sign a  covenant recognizing the sanctity of marriage between man and woman. Given the possible human rights implications of this covenant, the Law Society of British Columbia held a binding referendum on whether it should refuse to recognize Trinity Law School for purposes of admitting law student graduates to the bar. The referendum directed that the law school should not be recognized and the Law Society of British Columbia followed this result. TWU and a student sought judicial review. 

On judicial review, the British Columbia Supreme Court held that although the law society had the authority to consider nonacademic factors in deciding whether to approve the law school, by delegating the issue to its members, it had improperly “fettered” or given away its discretion and failed to balance the requirements of the Legal Profession Act against religious protections under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Court of Appeal held that “… the adoption of a resolution not to approve TWU's faculty of law would limit the engaged rights to freedom of religion in a significantly disproportionate way - significantly more than is reasonably necessary to meet the Law Society's public interest objectives.  In light of the severe impact of non-approval on the religious freedoms at stake, and the minimal impact of approval on the access of LGBTQ persons to legal education and the profession, a decision refusing to declare TWU an approved law faculty would be unreasonable.” 

The Law Society of British Columbia has filed an application for leave for the Supreme Court of Canada to hear this case.

2. The Commission recently released the following tribunal decision:

  • Gail Lidkea v. Edmonton Public School Board (October 14, 2016; William J. Johnson, Q.C., Tribunal Chair)

This tribunal decision can be accessed free of charge through the Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII) website.

COMMISSION NEWS

1. Consent Order granted by the Court of Queen’s Bench reads the protected ground of “age” into sections 4 and 5 of the Alberta Human Rights Act: A Court application, pursuant to the equality provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, was brought by Ruth Adria of Elder Advocates against the Alberta Government on January 6, 2017. In the application, Adria alleged that with the omission of “age” as a protected ground under sections 4 and 5 of the Alberta Human Rights Act, certain rights of seniors in Alberta were not protected. Section 4 and 5 of the Act state: 

Discrimination re goods, services, accommodation, facilities
4 No person shall

(a) deny to any person or class of persons any goods, services,
accommodation or facilities that are customarily available to
the public, or

(b) discriminate against any person or class of persons with
respect to any goods, services, accommodation or facilities
that are customarily available to the public,
because of the race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, gender
identity, gender expression, physical disability, mental disability,
ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income, family
status or sexual orientation of that person or class of persons or of
any other person or class of persons.

Discrimination re tenancy
5 No person shall

(a) deny to any person or class of persons the right to occupy as
a tenant any commercial unit or self-contained dwelling unit
that is advertised or otherwise in any way represented as
being available for occupancy by a tenant, or
(b) discriminate against any person or class of persons with
respect to any term or condition of the tenancy of any
commercial unit or self-contained dwelling unit,
because of the race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, gender
identity, gender expression, physical disability, mental disability,
ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income, family
status or sexual orientation of that person or class of persons or of
any other person or class of persons.
Alberta Justice consented to the application, but requested a 12 month reprieve to allow the government time to change the legislation. The Court granted the 12 month time frame as part of the Consent Order. In following the direction of the Court, the Commission will not accept complaints on the ground of age under sections 4 and 5 until such time as the legislation is amended or January 6, 2018, whichever occurs first. 

2. Upcoming Human Rights in the Workplace public workshops: The Commission offers the following public workshops, intended for anyone wanting basic human rights information:

Edmonton
Date: February 8, 2017
Time: 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Location: Radisson Hotel Edmonton South, 4440 Gateway Blvd., Edmonton
Fee: The workshop fee is $125.00 plus GST, totaling $131.25. Lunch is included.

You can read more and register online for the February 8, 2017 public workshop.

Calgary
Date: March 8, 2017
Time: 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Location: Acclaim Hotel Calgary Airport, 123 Freeport Boulevard NE
Fee: The workshop fee is $125.00 plus GST, totaling $131.25. Lunch is included.
 
You can read more and register online for the March 8, 2017 public workshop.

3. Human rights scholarship application: Graduate students pursuing studies that explore and support human rights, cultural diversity or multicultural matters in Canada can apply for the Alberta Award for the Study of Canadian Human Rights and Multiculturalism. A Master's level scholarship of $10,000 and a Doctoral level scholarship of $15,000 will be awarded. The deadline for applications is February 1, 2017. You can print the application form.

4. Chief of the Commission and Tribunals recipient of 2017 Distinguished Service Award: The Canadian Bar Association-Alberta Branch awarded Mr. Robert Philp, Queen's Counsel, Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission, a 2017 Distinguished Service Award: Service to the Community. From the Canadian Bar Association-Alberta Branch announcement: Mr. Philp "has devoted much of his professional career to the service of his community, in particular to organizations dealing with mental health, addiction, homelessness, and support for Aboriginal communities. Mr. Philp is a current Director of the Alberta Lawyers' Assistance Society, Board Member for Boyle Street Community Services, has served on the Board of Directors of the Jellinek Society, and provided fundraising support for the Canadian Diabetes Association and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, amongst many other contributions. His devotion to community service is reflected in his current position as Chief of the Commission and Tribunals for the Alberta Human Rights Commission." Mr. Philp will receive the award on January 26, 2017.

5. The Commission in the community:

  • 2016 Human Rights Day: December 10, 2016 was Human Rights Day, marking the United Nations' signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The United Nations designated the 2016 theme as “Stand up for someone’s rights today,” which reminded all people of the importance of human rights in our everyday lives and that everyone has a role to play in standing up for human rights in society. Events were planned in communities around Alberta to commemorate this special day. Commission representatives participated in a number of events, including the Human Rights Day event at the University of Calgary; the 10th annual John Humphrey Centre Human Rights Awards event; the Municipality of Wood Buffalo Human Rights Day symposium; and the Alex Community Food Centre’s Human Rights Day event.

  • Human Rights in Employment Forum Series: Gender Identity and Gender Expression in the Workplace: The Alberta Human Rights Commission, together with the Human Resources Institute of Alberta, Enbridge Employee Services Canada Inc., Sturgeon County, the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties, and the United Food and Commercial Workers' Union Local 401, offered two breakfast forums.The forums were held in Edmonton on October 26, 2016 and in Calgary on November 30, 2016. Janice Ashcroft, Q.C., Senior Legal Counsel, Office of the Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission, presented at both sessions and was joined by Stephanie Shostack, Trans Equality Society of Alberta, in Edmonton, and Frank Dunford, Legal Counsel, Enbridge Inc., and Angela Reid, Trans Equality Society of Alberta, in Calgary. Participants gathered to discuss and better understand gender identity and gender expression in the workplace and how it affects employers and employees. The Commission will be offering additional sessions on this timely topic.


Angela Reid, Trans Equality Society of Alberta; Janice Ashcroft, Q.C., Senior Legal Counsel, Office of the Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission; Frank Dunford, Legal Counsel, Enbridge Inc., presented at the forum in Calgary on November 30, 2016. 

  • Regional Planning Speakers Series: Human Rights and the City in Edmonton: On October 27, 2016, Mr. Robert Philp, Queen’s Counsel, Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission, was invited to participate in a panel discussion at the Regional Planning Speakers Series: Human Rights and the City in Edmonton. Mr. Philp provided an overview of the Commission and spoke about human rights issues facing urban Aboriginal Peoples in Alberta and new Canadians; the intersection of human rights and poverty, homelessness and unemployment; and services and facilities provided by municipal governments. Other panelists included City of Toronto human rights litigator Antonella Ceddia, immigration lawyer Shirish Chotalia, and University of Alberta Department of Sociology professor Dominique Clement.
  •  2016 DEAM Employer Recognition Awards: On October 26, 2017, Mr. Robert Philp, Queen’s Counsel, Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission, spoke at the Disability Employment Awareness Month (DEAM) Employer Recognition Awards Gala, hosted by the Calgary Employment First Network. These awards recognize and celebrate the outstanding achievements of inclusive employers. Mr. Philp spoke about the importance of educating employers and the public about the business case for hiring persons with disabilities. He congratulated all of the nominees and award recipients for their ongoing commitment to breaking down the attitudinal and systemic barriers that still exist that can prevent people with disabilities from full workforce participation.


    Mr. Robert Philp, Queen's Counsel, Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission, speaking at the Disability Employment Awareness Month (DEAM) Employer Recognition Awards Gala.
  • Presentation to U of C law school students: Janice Ashcroft, Q.C., Senior Legal Counsel, Office of the Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission, presented to law school students at the University of Calgary (U of C) on October 7, 2016. The students learned about the human rights complaint process as well as the Tribunal's role in hearing and deciding human rights complaints in Alberta. Several law school students have recently completed the human rights clinical course taught by Janice Ashcroft. This is a pilot project where the Commission partners with the U of C law school to offer law school students practical clinical experience at the Commission.

OTHER HUMAN RIGHTS AND DIVERSITY NEWS

1. Consulting with Canadians on accessibility legislation: Between July 2016 and February 2017, Employment and Social Development Canada is consulting with Canadians on planned accessibility legislation. Read more and learn how to participate in the consultation.

2. New grants to advance women's equality and prosperity: Alberta Status of Women will support organizations that improve the lives of women and girls through $500,000 in grants. These grants create opportunities for community groups to pilot an innovative idea or expand successful projects to help Alberta women reach their full potential. You can read the Government of Alberta news release.

3. Unanimous consent for Alberta's Ukrainian-Canadian Heritage Day: Alberta's Ukrainian-Canadian Heritage Day Act was passed with unanimous consent on November 2, 2016. The Act states that, starting in 2017, September 7 of each year shall be known as "Alberta's Ukrainian-Canadian Heritage Day." The date was chosen to honour the first officially recorded Ukrainian immigrants, Ivan Pylypiw and Vasyl Eleniak, who arrived in Canada on September 7, 1891. You can read the Government of Alberta news release.

4. Report promotes safety for persons with disabilities:The Government of Alberta received the Persons with Developmental Disabilities Safety Standards Consultation Team's final report on October 26, 2016. The team developed the Supporting Safe and Inclusive Lives report after consulting with more than 2,000 Albertans across the province in 2016. You can read the Government of Alberta news release.

PUBLICATIONS AND RESOURCES

1. Free webinars for employers to help find skilled immigrant talent: The Immigrant Employment Council of B.C. offers free webinars to employers to help find, hire and retain skilled immigrant talent. You can read the list of webinars available.

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The Alberta Human Rights Commission is an independent commission of the Government of Alberta.

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